Potential short-term rental ordinance coming to Lexington County: ‘They have a long way to go’

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Published: Apr. 25, 2023 at 9:49 PM EDT
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LEXINGTON COUNTY, S.C. (WIS) - Elected officials in the Midlands are once again seeking a limit on short-term rental (STR) properties, such as those listed on websites like Airbnb and Vrbo.

In a committee meeting on Tuesday, nine members of the Lexington County Council discussed their concerns with the STR industry, as well as potential ideas in the event of a drafted county ordnance.

“Mostly, we’re concerned about [STRs] being in platted neighborhoods where families move in, and they’re looking for a quality of life. They want to know who their next-door neighbors are. They want their children to grow up with the same people,” said Beth A. Carrigg, Chairwoman of Lexington County Council.

Before Tuesday’s committee meeting, Chairwoman Carrigg told WIS that Lexington County does not intend to outright ban STRs.

The chairwoman went on to say the county intents to work with the industry as collaboration builds continuity.

Some of the council’s concerns with STR properties include increased traffic and noise in residential communities. This, as well as a potentially overwhelmed sewage system on Lake Murray.

“It’s really more about tossing around several topics to see how each district would play a role in the ordinance, how short-term rentals might affect Lexington itself as opposed to Pelion, or Swansea, or Cayce, or Chapin. It really just all depends. Like I said, we have nine members here. All nine members have an opinion. They all look out for the best interest of their communities,” continued Carrigg.

The council discussed STRs for over 20 minutes on Tuesday, citing chief concern with non-owner occupied rentals. For example, an Airbnb property without a homeowner present when a guest rents the house.

“So, I took away that the county is looking for an ordinance to put in place on short-term rentals that would be targeted at non-owner occupied rentals,” said David Bergmann, owner of Heartwood Furnished Homes.

Bergmann manages STRs across The Midlands and remains an advocate for the industry and its members.

He became a familiar face at Columbia City Council after elected officials proposed a similar ordinance targeting non-owner-occupied STRs nearly two years ago.

The proposal, which would have effectively banned STRs from the capital city, ultimately failed before a comprised ordinance with lighter restrictions was passed earlier this month.

PREVIOUS COVERAGE: Columbia passes city ordinance targeting short-term rental property

Bergmann believes Tuesday’s discussion was drastically similar to where Columbia started over 18 months ago.

“In speaking to counsel prior to this, I thought fair and reasonable regulation was what we were all in agreement over. But what I heard, there’s still a lot of educating to be done, that it’s not non-owner occupied rentals that are issues, there are other types of solutions that we can observe. And I’d like to start with the problem, start by understanding, and then we can move into what the right solutions are,” concluded Bergmann.

Bergmann told WIS there’s a lot at stake for the short-term rental industry, as well as profit for Lexington County. He hopes the council will invite and listen to stakeholders as their conversation advances.

State House bill seeking to ban legislative bodies from enforcing an ordinance prohibiting STRs will be discussed in a subcommittee meeting on Wednesday morning.

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